Swansea aim to cause upset against Cornish Pirates
SWANSEA admit they are "unlikely" to reach the British & Irish Cup quarter-finals — but they are hoping to cause an upset against the Cornish Pirates tomorrow (4.30pm).
Having lost 27-9 to the same opponents last weekend, the Whites are third in Pool 3 and trail the table-topping Pirates by nine points.
Swansea produced a spirited display in their defeat to the English Championship side and, as they prepare to welcome the Pirates to St Helen's for the return fixture, their team manager Ian Hopkins is quietly hopeful of springing a surprise.
"Anything is possible," he said. "I think they certainly underestimated us in the first half last weekend, and hopefully they'll do the same again this time.
"They changed their attitude in the second half and took the game away from us in the final quarter, but it might be different tomorrow.
"They will probably feel their place at the top of the pool is secure, so they might bring in a few fringe players.
"They're also travelling up on the morning of the match, so hopefully we can catch them cold."
The British & Irish Cup has been a bruising competition for the Welsh sides — with matches against the full-time teams of the English Championship particularly physical — but Hopkins believes his players will benefit from the experience of playing against such strong opposition.
"It has been really refreshing for our players," he said.
"The competition has certainly been well worth it. It's great experience for the players to come up against professional sides with a different approach to what they're used to in the Premiership.
"And it's been good to travel as a team as well. Going down to Penzance last weekend was the first time our lads had been away together, and I think that contributed to an encouraging performance."
For Swansea, the British & Irish Cup has offered a welcome distraction from their dismal Premiership campaign.
The Whites are currently bottom of the table having picked up only one league victory so far this season.
It has been a testing time for all concerned at St Helen's, but Hopkins insists this competition has provided his players with a useful change of scenery.
"It's unlikely that we'll get to the quarter-finals now," he said. "But that does not detract from how much we want to win tomorrow. The British & Irish Cup has been a refreshing change for us, and we will be doing all we can to win tomorrow."
Full-back Nicky J. Thomas and centre Chris Shelmerdine are both out with ankle injuries, while lock Sam Kiley is also missing because of a kidney infection.
Swansea: R. Williams; N. Harwood, L. Price, B. Roberts, N. Brooks; S. Davies, A. Lewis; N. Smith, P. John (capt), I. Williams, B. Fox, R. Hughes, J. McKenna, D. Baker, J. Bija. Reps: I. Dobbs, M. Norman, N. Thomas, TBC, R. Dudley-Jones, J. Cole, A. Jenkins.